Wednesday, July 30, 2008

News from the Hedge

Have been absent for the last while, furiously cutting,folding and pasting the elegant thing that is 'Postcards from the Hedge'. This cottage industry has been pursued in Hugh Bryden's sun kissed garden. Shug2 is a fantastic cook so the toil has been liberally interspersed with mediterrranean food and collapso of the most sumptuous quality. The end product is rather beautiful, I must say. A hand made artists' book with 15 poems by mesel and drawings by Hugh, and a rolled up map/poster with the poems on one side and a stylised route through Scotland on the other. Books for sale for £10 and map/posters for five quid. Damned bargain.

More news will follow on dates etc. Anyone keen on getting their hands on this rare and beautiful product before that could contact me or Roncadora Press, 14 Corberry Avenue, Dumfries.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Frozen North

Frozen North

Deep in the bowels of a bus
I suddenly awake
and in the dark, mistake
some loony’s neon Christmas

for the turn-off home.
Alone in the night
I watch the tail lights
disappear up six miles more

of artic-hoovered road.
The winter has rules
of its own: the moon is huge
and the wind brings the sob

of music. It would be easy
to be lost here,
we fall in and out of dreams
and could die as simply as lose our way.

The stars are sewn in gold
and the cold is a kiss.
No satellite can breach this
black stronghold.

It’s why we’re alive,
to feel the flicker of heart
timid as a scut,
under an unutterable sky.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Important New document unearthed in Drumsleet attic

The Great Seannaisadh Ruaridh Na Bheasdh Bhard greets the first Millennium.

Introduction by Hugh McMillan

Recent discoveries in Drumsleet have enabled us to shed far greater light on one of the most significant and mysterious periods of Scottish history, that time that straddles the end of the so-called Dark Ages and the birth of the Scottish nation under the undivided rule of Kenneth Mac Alpine. As all previous histories will testify, this amalgamation was achieved through a combination of feats-of-arms and peaceful dynastic intermarriage, though the details of these remained, at least until now, vague, as written testimony to add to the existing wealth of archaeological evidence has been thin on the ground, in fact virtually non existent.

Even more intriguing, of course, is that this first flowering of Scottish nationhood coincided, approximately at least, with the first Christian millennium. Though commentators are able, through the records of the French and Spanish church, to note some of the hopes, fears, and even heretical beliefs of ordinary people there during this most historical time, no documents illuminate the situation in Scotland, either because the pre-Roman Catholic Celtic Church kept few bureaucratic records or because everyone was blind drunk.

At least that was the situation till recently. A remarkable archive has just been opened up to scholars by Somerled MacSonnhbheate (Somerled of the cute turn of phrase), the last in a remarkable and ancient line of bardic poets whose family has kept meticulous written records of every poem submitted to Scottish small presses and magazines from the year 66BC to the present day.

One of the most important parts of this literary treasure trove date from the assumption of the Scottish throne by Kenneth MacAlpine, King of the Dalriadic Scots, who, through victories over the Britons of Strathclyde and the Saxons of Northumbria, and clever marriages into the female Pictish royal line, became undisputed King of an almost united Scotland. The manuscript in question is fragmented, heavily stained by what appears to be beer, and partly defaced by a jealous descendant of the author, who has repeatedly scribbled ‘Ruaridh MacChannmohrmittonhlichars’ (Rory of the Big Head and the tongue that hits the spot) on the margins.

The Great Seannaisadh Ruaridh MacMeannaichpuroldhrhope (Rory of the Award Winning Metaphor) was commissioned by King Kenneth Macalpine to narrate a long poem of praise to celebrate not only his coronation as monarch of the new kingdom of Scotland, but also the Millennium. It is thanks to this fascinating man, Ruaridh Mac Bhuirsharadh (Rory of the First ever Bursary) that we are able to clearly see for the first time the pre-eminence of poetry in the Scottish oral or written tradition. But, academics will pick over these works for decades to come. Let us, for the first time in nearly a thousand years, hear the unique words of the first Seannaisadh, Ruaridh MacSbhenschlambh (Rory of the Expense Claim).

Hugh McMillan

(The fragment begins in mid sentence)

…………………..of all the great and illustrious Seannaisadhs before me. That is my fame and genealogy. Who amongst the poets of these islands can claim such a bloodline? I see you, O’Rourke, unworthy, fat, bald Irish (b?ard ) (part of this word is missing- it may be the interrogative form of 'bard' or perhaps part of a longer word: HMcM), feigning sleep as though the power of my narrative could do anything but fire the belly, fortify the heart, and add extra gristle to a man’s prick, though for the last benefit, O’Rourke, you need a prick. And don’t think I didn’t see you smirking during my talk about the oral tradition. Double-entendres have no place in poetry of state which is why you fight for scraps at the tables of peasant farmers, licking out the backsides of rural braggarts, rather than be invited as High Seannaisadh to address the King of the Oceans on this most auspicious date, the coincidence of a thousand years of the Blessed Virgin and the great King’s victory over the dogs of Welsh which has established his kingdom from sea to foaming sea. From the mountains here in the heartland of the Gaeltacht, to the green plains of the east, to the cascades of the north where they say the land slips away to a torrent that roars to the world’s groin, our families are supreme and fecund, our currachs like sea wolves bring cack to our enemies breeches.

By way of a small digression, have you noticed that all our foes, who scatter like chaff, like kirtleweed before us, wear breeches, which not only must be inconvenient during bowel movements but impossible during sexual intercourse. This explains why they are dough faced and their children runts. There will never be a time near the sea when the north wind will not freely aerate a man’s testicles.

But I am asked by the King of all the Islands ,who walks like Padraig across the seas, to mark the beginning of civilisation across these lands. As is the custom, I have talked for two and a half hours about myself, but this must be like honey to you after a day’s sowans, for poetry is the life and soul of any nation, the only reason we live and breathe and copulate on this blaze of emerald and blue, the earth. Under the King of the Mountains and the Seas, poetry will thrive. Men like me, true artists, not forgers and plagiarists, will prosper. God praise the benevolence of the King of the Deer and Salmon for he has established this day, under my guardianship, a Council of Seannaisadhs and from this time on, the supply to poets of good wine, women and oatcakes will be at last regulated according to purity of form and proper respect, in the shape of small gifts. I do not foresee a time when women, spoilers of milk as they are, will write poetry, though I know our Pictish cousins think differently. There it is quite normal for women to shave their heads, pierce their noses, and pretend to be men, even to the speaking and writing of verse, though what they can know about the real world beyond whelping I do not know. It will be a long time before bald women read poetry in Scotland.

It is commonly held that the Milennium will bring troubles of a religious nature to our people. It is stated that the Millennium will herald the end of the world as we know it. As Black Angus, the Seer of Fochabers has said “When seven cats inhabit the temple of the tin people, a thick grey carpet will envelop those who have ears to hear the tale.” This has been widely interpreted to mean that on the stroke of midnight on the year 1000 AD the earth will be destroyed by porridge. But I know Black Angus and the amount that he drinks. And I know also there is not enough oatmeal presently in the west to cover the world in porridge.

To state affairs. The King of the Pines and Seaweed, as soon as Spring comes, will march east against the English and drive them from that stronghold of rock where men wear breeches, speak like barking dogs and hold a festival every August to show how effeminate they are. All good men will fight and the poets will follow to record events a day or two afterwards because war is hell. The Council will give a travel bursary for this purpose. All good poets, not gutter ranters, may apply. When we have conquered, we will disassemble the rock, make the English carry it south and rebuild the wall that the giant Fingal built to keep trousers out of Scotland. We will drive out all the lawyers and hairdressers and plant the area with conifers. A poet will be in charge of the commission to do this, for God abhors farmland and loves poetry.

Our future does not lie to the west, not even to the west of Ireland. Brendan, who was sitting by the logs till his beard caught fire a minute ago, can tell us this. He has been there, seen it, done it, written the book. America is no use to us at all. There are no poets in America, just great flat fertile plains, only good for playing shinty or dumping the English. There is no future there, there are no rocks on which to build hovels, no animals to hunt except big bearded things that Brendan thought were Pictish women poets. No forget America. If anything interesting ever comes out of there, I will give up drink.

So where does our future lie? To which great nation can we forge our destiny? Which race deserves to share our common and most glorious fortune? BELGIUM!

(Here the manuscript is torn, and begins again)

……….for what man amongst you can truly say he has never been boring? Moreover, the fruit beer, some of which is as strong as 12%, would make the most tedious man seem like Solomon and the drabbest tart seem like the Queen of Sheba.

Lastly, the King of all the Eagles and Bears has let his will be known that some lasting monuments be built to celebrate these times of great moment and unparalleled jubilation. A series of circular buildings are to be built throughout the coastline of our blessed land. These are to be called Millennium Brochs, and in them shall be gathered the fruits of our nation’s achievements, for instance sesame seed bannocks, these daft stones the Picts keep carving, and, of course, poets who will be in residence.

My thanks to you, the King of Clouds and Drizzle, may your reign be as the sunshine that sometimes lights the Sound of Mull, both dazzling and poetic………..

Friday, July 11, 2008

The long range forecast foresees heavy rain until five minutes before I go back to my work in August so now would be the time to snap up a last minute holiday, perhaps to Rhodos where I could smell the dry pine in the lost city of Philerimos or hang about the Turkish graveyard in Rhodes Town pretending to be Laurence Durrell. There are two obstacles to this plan:

1. Postcards from the Hedge is not yet ready

2. I have £12.50 till the end of July

Of these obstacles, the second seems by far the greatest.

On a lighter note the Mull Four have returned in high spirits, Theosyphilis Neill's near legendary drinking status further enhanced in the process.

I shall return to this journal presently: I am currently reworking a poem of mine I found in the washing machine.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The weekend

Much time spent this week drinking huge amounts of alcohol at various events in the local Gala. The quiz, the highland dancing, the treasure hunt. Even simple tasks like manning the alfalfa and houmus stall necessitate the downing of monstrous amounts of Irish Cider. It's a local by-law. On Saturday I am playing the part of Robert Burns in the Gala Parade, though I have been more concerned with kitting out my daughters as Rainbow Magic Fairies. I had the idea, however, of sub-contracting this to two girls at my school who are good at art and they agreed to do this but only in exchange for- it seems to me- an exorbitant amount of money for labour and materials.

Attendance at the Gala tomorrow has necessitated my pull-out from the great Mull of Galloway expedition, which sets off tonight. This is possibly a mercy. The company has swollen to four- Theosyphilis Neil , thistlemilk salesman and professional cripple, MacDuff, ex-marine and territorial army cyborg killing machine, Dean 0'Jones, wildlife warden and genuine backwoodsman, and Lexie, an epic drinker recently savagely eviscerated by a failed relationship.

As far as I can see little preparation has been made for this weekend in the open air- strong winds and heavy rain are forecast- beyond the purchase by each participant of a bottle of 12 year old malt whisky. I tell a lie: Theosyphilis has bought for £3.00 from the local spar shop a frail structure which he seems to think is a tent but seems to me to be more of a Wendy House.

It is easy to predict what will happen. 12 pints each in the pub at Drummore tonight then a five mile walk to the Mull where Dean will retire to his state of the art specially insulated bivouac, Lexie will sit in his car plotting murder, MacDuff will dig foxholes round the perimeter in case of attack, and Theo , completely steaming, will be swept off by a force niner to the Isle of Man. There will be no postcards sent home, that's for sure.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Poem While an Egg Boils

Poem While an Egg Boils

Six minutes. Not too soft,
solid with a vein of molten gold.
In the time that takes,
rain will scour the skylight,
small birds will twirl rudely
in front of the family cat,
grass will wave in a rich sea
against the hills and next door
they will pack the mouth
with cotton wool and raise
an artery for the needle.
Such a little time
for steam to mist the glass,
for the world to change unutterably.